The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has announced that retail pharmacies like CVS and Walgreens can now provide abortion pills.
The abortion drug Mifepristone was previously only available through doctors, clinics, or some mail-order pharmacies. The new rule change from the FDA will allow any pharmacy abiding by its guidelines to fill prescription orders in stores and by mail.
“Mifeprex and its generic Mifepristone Tablets, 200 mg, are available under a single, shared system risk evaluation and mitigation strategy (REMS), known as the Mifepristone REMS Program, which sets forth the requirements that must be followed for mifepristone for medical termination of pregnancy through ten weeks gestation,” the FDA shared in a Tuesday update.
The FDA recommended against the purchase of Mifepristone online without a prescription.
“The FDA does not have regulatory oversight of prescription medicines from outside the legitimate U.S. drug supply chain; therefore, the FDA cannot ensure the safety, effectiveness, or quality of those medications,” the guidance noted.
According to the Guttmacher Institute, medication abortion accounted for 54% of U.S. abortions in 2020. That percentage is likely to increase as retail pharmacies provide abortion pills.
The new FDA update comes following a year of significant changes to abortion policies. In June, the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and returned abortion laws to individual states.
Thirteen states had trigger laws that further limited abortion following the court’s decision. Several additional states passed legislation after the ruling to tighten abortion restrictions.
Court battles have since ensued, with some new abortion limitations placed on hold until cases are held.
Some states, such as Mississippi, have already ruled against abortion pills. Mississippi Republican Gov. Tate Reeves said in July that doctors in his state would lose their medical licenses for prescribing abortion pills.
“If a physician is practicing medicine in the state of Mississippi, they have to have a license to do so and if abortion is illegal in our state, which it is, then those medicines will not be allowed and they will not have a license to practice in our state,” Reeves said in July.
“Any physician that is practicing, whether it’s through telemedicine or otherwise… that practices in our state is practicing not only based upon the standards of care that we require in our state, but also based upon state law,” he added.
South Dakota Republican Governor Kristi Noem also signed a bill in March to ban telemedicine abortion.
“With this bill, we will protect both unborn babies and their mothers from this dangerous procedure,” Noem wrote.
Eighteen states currently “require the clinician providing a medication abortion to be physically present when the medication is administered, thereby prohibiting the use of telemedicine to prescribe medication for abortion,” the Guttmacher Institute reported.
Texas has a ban on medication abortion at seven weeks, while Indiana has a 10-week ban.